In the most recent year statistics were available, over 20 percent of workplace fatalities occurred at construction sites, as logged by the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s one in five worker fatalities in the construction industry alone. Of those fatalities, 58 percent were from what’s dubbed the “Fatal Four” causes of death in construction: falls, electrocutions, struck by an object, and caught-in/between. Falls were by far the most frequent cause of death with 349 out of 874 construction fatalities in the reported year. Eliminating these four hazards has the potential to save more than 500 lives each year.
With one OSHA inspector for every 59,000 workers, it’s clear that the responsibility for workplace safety falls in the laps of employers.
“Making a living shouldn’t have to cost you your life,” says Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “Workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are preventable. Safe jobs happen because employers make the choice to fulfill their responsibilities and protect their workers.”
In reality, there’s only one way to protect employees from danger, and that’s through prevention. These fatalities and other falls resulting in accidents were preventable. Implementing the three-step system of 1) planning the task, 2) providing the protection, and 3) training the employees can save lives.
Planning the Task
The planning stage is when the employer needs to decide how the job will be carried out, which tasks need to be done, and what safety equipment is required. The total cost should take into account all the necessary safety equipment.
OSHA maintains strict standards regarding fall prevention by mandating employee fall protection at elevations higher than four feet in general industry, five feet in shipyards, six feet in construction sites, and eight feet in longshoring and marine loading operations. In addition to these fall distances, OSHA requires protection when working over dangerous equipment or machinery, regardless of height.
Planning gets complicated when you consider that during a construction job accidents or injuries can occur during the initial work, during operation and maintenance, after completion, and through to renovation and demolition. On many occasions, workers could be near a roof edge — including the transfer of material to and from the roof, accessing equipment or tools from the rooftop, or communicating with coworkers at ground level.
Planning for each of these phases includes prevention by design. While dangerous situations cannot be ruled out altogether — particularly in areas like construction — putting up significant barriers and restricting access to high areas is a great place to start. Fall protection systems determine the need for extra equipment and devices to arrest a free fall or restrain an employee and stop the fall altogether.
Providing the Protection
Falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs are extremely common and highly preventable. But such falls can also occur from other elements, such as floor edges, elevated platforms, ledges, safety cages, skylights, machine rooms, and stairways. Fall protection systems need to be set up across all of these areas to avoid all injuries from falls. Floor holes should have covers or railings with accompanying toe-boards. Guard rails and toe-boards should also be added above dangerous machinery. Where necessary, use of safety harnesses, safety nets, safety cages, modular stairs, stair railings, and elevating handrail systems also need to be incorporated. Ladders, scaffolds, parapets, anchor points, and alternative safety gear may also be needed, as well as personal fall protection systems.
It could be that additional safety measures such as a vertical cable lifeline or single point anchor are needed to protect a worker from falling from a ladder. Or perhaps an overhead cable needs to be installed for those climbing on machinery or tanker trucks. In other cases, temporary platforms or industrial platforms may be necessary. These backup systems are critical but — unfortunately for many companies — their need often isn’t determined until too late, after an accident has occurred. Prevention needs to be the first line of defense.
While the cost of safety equipment may seem expensive at the outset, OSHA estimates that falls cost companies in excess of $50,000 to $100,000 per incident.
Training the Employees
Employers need to do more than just provide the necessary equipment to their teams. They’re also responsible for training the staff about when and how to use the fall protection equipment. Employees should know which equipment to use in various work scenarios, what the equipment is supposed to do and how to secure and use it properly. They should also have an understanding of how fall protection equipment works in concert with overall fall protection systems at a site. Hazard recognition can save lives and so all team members should have a good understanding of what’s involved in the proper use of safety equipment.
Fall prevention planning minimizes the risk of falling. Meeting or exceeding OSHA fall protection standards and training employees in fall protection and hazard recognition will prevent employees from falling off, into, or through dangerous areas.
If you’re unsure how to apply the three steps of fall prevention to your workplace, then it’s important to seek advice from experts who can assess the area and determine the necessary custom solutions to meet your personal needs.
Practicing what we preach – A Major Safety Milestone Reached for SafeRack: 500 Days Injury Free
Safety runs deep at SafeRack. Because we manufacture safety products for companies worldwide and our number one value is safety, for our employees and our customers. The proof is in milestones such as the 500 injury-free days celebration.
SafeRack, the leading industrial manufacturer of safety access equipment and an OSHA and IBC compliant company is setting the trend of putting safety first for employees and companies locally and across America. As SafeRack’s influence grows across a number of industries, established Charleston-based companies such as Boeing, Bosch, and Lockheed Martin have partnered with SafeRack to ensure safety is at the forefront at their facilities as well. Read More
Worksite Safety Checklist
The following checklists may help you take steps to avoid hazards that cause injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. As always, be cautious and seek help if you are concerned about a potential hazard. OSHA Worker Safety Series
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Eye and Face Protection
- Safety glasses or face shields are worn anytime work operations can cause foreign objects to get into the eye such as during welding, cutting, grinding, nailing (or when working with concrete and/or harmful chemicals or when exposed to flying particles).
- Eye and face protectors are selected based on anticipated hazards.
- Safety glasses or face shields are worn when exposed to any electrical hazards including work on energized electrical systems.
- Construction workers should wear work shoes or boots with slip-resistant and puncture-resistant soles.
- Safety-toed footwear is worn to prevent crushed toes when working around heavy equipment or falling objects.
- Gloves should fit snugly.
- Workers wear the right gloves for the job (for example, heavy-duty rubber gloves for concrete work, welding gloves for welding, insulated gloves, and sleeves when exposed to electrical hazards).
- Workers shall wear hard hats where there is a potential for objects falling from above, bumps to their heads from fixed objects, or of accidental head contact with electrical hazards.
- Hard hats are routinely inspected for dents, cracks, or deterioration.
- Hard hats are replaced after a heavy blow or electrical shock.
- Hard hats are maintained in good condition.
- Scaffolds should be set on sound footing.
- Damaged parts that affect the strength of the scaffold are taken out of service.
- Scaffolds are not altered.
- All scaffolds should be fully planked.
- Scaffolds are not moved horizontally while workers are on them unless they are designed to be mobile and workers have been trained in the proper procedures.
- Employees are not permitted to work on scaffolds when covered with snow, ice, or other slippery materials.
- Scaffolds are not erected or moved within 10 feet of power lines.
- Employees are not permitted to work on scaffolds in bad weather or high winds unless a competent person has determined that it is safe to do so.
- Ladders, boxes, barrels, buckets, or other makeshift platforms are not used to raise work height.
- Extra material is not allowed to build up on scaffold platforms.
- Scaffolds should not be loaded with more weight than they were designed to support.
Project Profile – RollaStep as a Scaffolding Alternative.
A large tire manufacturing plant had to regularly access their heat exchangers, a piece of equipment that is used in transferring heat between a solid object and a fluid, or between two or more fluids. Workers needed a work platform to access these heat exchangers for maintenance every 4-6 weeks throughout the year.
- Work on new and existing energized (hot) electrical circuits is prohibited until all power is shut off and grounds are attached.
- An effective Lockout/Tagout system is in place.
- Frayed, damaged, or worn electrical cords or cables are promptly replaced.
- All extension cords have grounding prongs.
- Protect flexible cords and cables from damage. Sharp corners and projections should be avoided.
- Use extension cord sets used with portable electric tools and appliances that are the three-wire type and designed for hard or extra-hard service. (Look for some of the following letters imprinted on the casing: S, ST, SO, STO.)
- All electrical tools and equipment are maintained in a safe condition and checked regularly for defects and taken out of service if a defect is found.
- Do not bypass any protective system or device designed to protect employees from contact with electrical energy.
- Overhead electrical power lines are located and identified.
- Ensure that ladders, scaffolds, equipment, or materials never come within 10 feet of electrical power lines.
- All electrical tools must be properly grounded unless they are of the double insulated type.
- Multiple plug adapters are prohibited.
Floor and Wall Openings
- Floor openings (12 inches or more) are guarded by a secured cover, a guardrail, or equivalent on all sides (except at entrances to stairways).
- Toeboards are installed around the edges of permanent floor openings (where persons may pass below the opening).
- Signs are posted, when appropriate, showing the elevated surface load capacity.
- Surfaces elevated more than 48 inches above the floor or ground have standard guardrails.
- All elevated surfaces (beneath which people or machinery could be exposed to falling objects) have standard 4-inch toeboards.
- A permanent means of entry and exit with handrails is provided to elevated storage and work surfaces.
- Material is piled, stacked, or racked in a way that prevents it from tipping, falling, collapsing, rolling, or spreading.
- A list of hazardous substances used in the workplace is maintained and readily available at the worksite.
- There is a written hazard communication program addressing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), labeling, and employee training.
- Each container of a hazardous substance (vats, bottles, storage tanks) is labeled with product identity and a hazard warning(s) (communicating the specific health hazards and physical hazards).
- Material Safety Data Sheets are readily available at all times for each hazardous substance used.
- There is an effective employee training program for hazardous substances.
- Cranes and derricks are restricted from operating within 10 feet of any electrical power line.
- The upper rotating structure supporting the boom and materials being handled is provided with an electrical ground while working near energized transmitter towers.
- Rated load capacities, operating speed, and instructions are posted and visible to the operator.
- Cranes are equipped with a load chart.
- The operator understands and uses the load chart.
- The operator can determine the angle and length of the crane boom at all times.
- Crane machinery and other rigging equipment are inspected daily prior to use to make sure that it is in good condition.
- Accessible areas within the crane’s swing radius are barricaded.
- Tag lines are used to prevent dangerous swing or spin of materials when raised or lowered by a crane or derrick.
- Illustrations of hand signals to crane and derrick operators are posted on the job site.
- The signal person uses correct signals for the crane operator to follow.
- Crane outriggers are extended when required.
- Crane platforms and walkways have antiskid surfaces.
- Broken, worn, or damaged wire rope is removed from service.
- Guardrails, handholds, and steps are provided for safe and easy access to and from all areas of the crane.
- Load testing reports/certifications are available.
- Tower crane mast bolts are properly torqued to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Overload limits are tested and correctly set.
- The maximum acceptable load and the last test results are posted on the crane.
- Initial and annual inspections of all hoisting and rigging equipment are performed and reports are maintained.
- Only properly trained and qualified operators are allowed to work with hoisting and rigging equipment.
- Forklift truck operators are competent to operate these vehicles safely as demonstrated by their successful completion of training and evaluation.
- No employee under 18 years old is allowed to operate a forklift.
- Forklifts are inspected daily for proper condition of brakes, horns, steering, forks, and tires.
- Powered industrial trucks (forklifts) meet the design and construction requirements established in American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for Powered Industrial Trucks, Part II ANSI B56.1-1969.
- Written approval from the truck manufacturer is obtained for any modification or additions which affect the capacity and safe operation of the vehicle.
- Capacity, operation, and maintenance instruction plates, tags, or decals are changed to indicate any modifications or additions to the vehicle.
- Battery charging is conducted in areas specifically designated for that purpose.
- Material handling equipment is provided for handling batteries, including conveyors, overhead hoists, or equivalent devices.
- Reinstalled batteries are properly positioned and secured in the truck.
- Smoking is prohibited in battery charging areas.
- Precautions are taken to prevent open flames, sparks, or electric arcs in battery charging areas.
- Refresher training is provided and an evaluation is conducted whenever a forklift operator has been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner and when an operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck.
- Load and forks are fully lowered, controls neutralized, power shut off and brakes set when a powered industrial truck is left unattended.
- There is sufficient headroom for the forklift and operator under overhead installations, lights, pipes, sprinkler systems, etc.
- Overhead guards are in place to protect the operator against falling objects.
- Trucks are operated at a safe speed.
- All loads are kept stable, safely arranged, and fit within the rated capacity of the truck.
- Unsafe and defective trucks are removed from service.